Not your everyday idea of a broadcast attorney — only he sure gives KVMR a hand
Communications attorney Michael Couzens gazed across the Nevada County Fairgrounds’ parking lot during the spring Strawberry Music Festival last weekend with a sense of pride.
“Look at all those,” he said. “That’s an incredible number of community radio bumper stickers in one parking lot.”
You could tell it really made a difference to Couzens to see the array of stations represented. KVMR from Nevada City, of course. But KPFA in Berkeley. And Chico, West Marin, Mendocino and others from independent stations all over the state…and then there was that one from Moab, Utah.
A lover of the annual Father’s Day Bluegrass Festival, during which he and award-winning independent radio producer Adi Givens were married a quarter century ago, Couzens has walked the walk and talked the talk in defense of independent media.
He’s spent a good portion of a lifetime defending and protecting community radio stations like KVMR, which simply may have gone under if legal advocates like Couzens didn’t exist, or so says KVMR 89.5 FM Program Director Steve Baker.
“Michael was instrumental in helping KVMR move to a new nonprofit corporation and convince the FCC to allow transfer of the license back in the ‘80s,” according to Baker.
Okay, that was back in the mid ‘80s, but…
“Getting the station out of the clutches of its former owners and out of the problems the FCC (Federal Communication Commission) felt they’d found was one of the best things I’ve ever done in radio,” admits Couzens, with one of his honest-feeling, sly smiles.
Whew. Ever done in radio, he says. And for KVMR.
Recalls Couzens, “I helped get it organized, wrote the purchase agreement…even if the books (at the time) didn’t add up.”
He even got a piece of Miner’s Foundry furniture out of the deal, which he proudly still has.
For the past three decades or so, Couzens has represented the Nevada City station on matters large and small with the FCC, from license renewals to low power translator applications and, yes, complaints about the station from time to time.
At the same time, Couzens admits he’s helped at least 25 community radio stations like KVMR over the years, as well as extensive work in public television fields.
Most recently, the attorney helped keep a Spokane, Washington community radio station on the air, instead of losing its license to a religious organization.
Early in his career, Couzens was a FCC staff member for a couple of years. He was supposed to analyze what syndicated corporate programming was doing in early evening television hours, which wasn’t his thing, and he ended up developing almost all the rules for low power, community-oriented television instead.
Around then he met Adi Gevins, a Pacifica Radio independent producer, the two fell in love and moved to Oakland in 1982.
She wanted out of Washington at the time, Michael followed and put out his shingle as a communications lawyer, only to find most of the action was, of course, back in D.C.
For her wide variety of instruction and programming projects, many for KPFA and Pacifica Radio,, Gevins became known as “the fairy godmother of community radio,” a beloved term that simply captures her “amazing lifetime contributions to the world of what we do,” according to Baker.
“They didn’t name her that for nothin’,” he quips. “What radio sweethearts they both are.”
And don’t worry. Michael created plenty of action out here, too, including KVMR.
No, you won’t find him in suit-and-tie, pretty much, because, well, he represents a decidedly non-suit-and-tie world. Like the kind of folks you’d find at Strawberry or his annual visit to the Father’s Day Weekend Bluegrass extravaganza, two of his favorite places to relax.
In fact, you’ll also find Michael at the upcoming National Federation of Community Broadcasters conference in Denver, which Baker, KVMR General Manager Julie Chiarelli and Music Director Sean Dooley-Miller will attend next week.
“If you read the blogs and trades, they say broadcast radio is stone cold dead, no radio audience whatsoever” says Couzens. “But everything I see shows community radio is loved and essential, that people want it and will go find it. It’s that important, no matter what they say…”
There’s life that includes local radio?
This guy Couzens may be on to something.
For decades, well, he always has been.
A weekly wrap-up of news and oddities about community radio station KVMR (89.5 FM, kvmr.org streaming), a noncommercial station offering diverse musical programming, independent news and provocative public affairs from about 180 volunteer “citizen-broadcasters.” Complete program listings are available at kvmr.org You can hear most recent radio programs via our archives, conveniently located at archive.kvmr.org
Support Local Journalism
Support Local Journalism
Readers around Grass Valley and Nevada County make The Union’s work possible. Your financial contribution supports our efforts to deliver quality, locally relevant journalism.
Now more than ever, your support is critical to help us keep our community informed about the evolving coronavirus pandemic and the impact it is having locally. Every contribution, however large or small, will make a difference.
Your donation will help us continue to cover COVID-19 and our other vital local news.
Start a dialogue, stay on topic and be civil.
If you don't follow the rules, your comment may be deleted.
User Legend: Moderator Trusted User